Hemingway on the horror and futility of war

Hemingway World War I
Ernest Hemingway was wounded while serving as a volunteer ambulance driver in 1918 in Italy. (Photo: Corbis)

Veterans’ Day in the United States is used by politicians, most of whom have never seen battle or served in an ambulance corps, to celebrate the virtues of glory, honor and courage. They do this to make themselves look patriotic and to convince a gullible public that spending money on useless wars and sending other people’s children to die are just and proper.

It’s much better to remember what the great American writer, Ernest Hemingway, wrote in “A Farewell to Arms” in which the main character, Fredric Henry, an American ambulance driver in Italy during the First World War, describes the horror and futility of war:

I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.

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One thought on “Hemingway on the horror and futility of war”

  1. Good article; however honor and courage should always be attributed to those veterans who did their duty – regardless of what the politicians think a just war is.
    I agree with Ron Paul: if not approved by Congress and declared a war, then we do not get involved, unless attacked. If war is declared by Congress than we should fight to win and keep politics out of it.
    Hemingway was one of my favorite American authors.

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